DAVID Cameron yesterday found himself facing a battle over European Union funding – as his own backbenchers joined forces with the Labour party to call for a real-terms cut to the EU budget.
The Prime Minister faces a struggle at next month’s European Council meeting where the 27 heads of government will discuss EU spending limits for the next eight years.
Other European leaders are happy to push ahead with an inflation-busting 6.8 per cent rise in the organisation budget for 2013, and a five per cent increase for 2014-2020.
But Cameron continues to insist that he will only allow the budget to rise in line with inflation, currently around two per cent a year. Even this would see Britain contributing an average of £13.6bn a year to the organisation. The issue will come to a head tomorrow when the Prime Minister will attempt to secure parliamentary approval for his stance. But his plans were thrown into disarray yesterday when two eurosceptic Tory MPs filed an amendment to the government motion, calling for any budget rise to be below inflation – effectively a spending cut.
Mark Reckless, one of the amendment’s backers, said it “beggars belief” that the government is planning to “exempt the EU entirely from the financial pressures facing families and governments across Europe”.
Meanwhile Labour joined in the apparent ambush as its frontbench team also called for a below inflation increase. Last night Ed Miliband told the BBC: “With everybody else tightening our belts we have to do that in the EU too. Let’s spend that money more wisely and let’s get the right deal for Britain.”
The Prime Minister’s spokeswoman said that any budget increase “is completely unrealistic” but hinted that it may be impossible to secure a cut: “We are one member among 27 members. All the indications are that they want an increase while we want a freeze.”
However she insisted the government would adopt a tough negotiating stance: “There simply isn’t the case for an increase in real term spending. We’re going to be sticking to our guns.”
Writing in today’s City A.M. prominent Conservative backbencher Priti Patel adds that the Prime Minister “should be prepared” to exercise his veto over the 2014-2020 budget.